Islands of Warmth

December 5, 2016

Last month's full moon

Last month’s full moon

“The cold has the philosophical value of reminding men that the universe does not love us. Cold as absolute as the black tomb rules space; sunshine is a local condition, and the moon hangs in the sky to illustrate that matter is usually inanimate. . . . To return back indoors after exposure to the bitter, inimical, implacable cold is to experience gratitude for the shelters of civilization, for the islands of warmth that life creates.”
— John Updike, “The Cold”

I am getting tired of the dark, the gloom, the clouds, the cold, the dampness, the rain.  I dream of warm sun on my skin.  That local condition is months away.  In the meantime, I will try to be grateful for central heating, electric lights, polar fleece, and mittens!




Sunrise through trees

Sunrise through trees

I wish I could tell you that I have been absent from this website because I have been engrossed in a great project or off traveling to some exotic destination.  But no.  I have no excuses.  I seem to have sunk into a kind of lethargy.  The days pass and I have no sketches, paintings, writings,  nor photographs to show for this passing time.

My friend Bonnie sent me this poem, which is an affirming way to consider my down time:

by David Whyte

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
It’s time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.


“It was hard to say when exactly winter arrived.  The decline was gradual, like that of a person into old age, inconspicuous from day to day until the season became an established, relentless reality.”
— Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel

Frost-lined leaves

Frost-lined leaves

“The winters come now as fast as snowflakes.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journals, December 7, 1856

Today is the Winter Solstice, and I, for one, am thrilled that we have reached our darkest day and that daylight will begin to creep back slowly, lengthening our days.  I will try to foster a more romantic attitude to accompany this cold and dreary time:

“I see the winter approaching without much concern, though a passionate lover of fine weather, and the pleasant scenes of summer, but the long evenings have their comforts too, and there is hardly to be found upon earth, I suppose, so snug a creature as an Englishman by the fireside in the winter.”
— William Cowper

Early Blooms

February 17, 2012

I am now seeing camellias in bloom in Seattle.

“Help us to be the always hopeful
Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Nothing flowers.”
— Kali, “A Grain of Mustard Seed”

When I first started my blog in April 2009, I did several posts about the camellias blooming by my front door.  (See here and here and here.)  So it just surprises me to see camellias blooming already in mid-February this year.

It is so lovely to see the new pink and deep fuchsia-colored buds bringing spots of color to our gray winter landscape.  After a long winter, things are beginning to flower again.

There are still hundreds of unopened buds on the camellia bushes.

But a few of the buds have burst into full bloom.

Delicate new blossoms on a flowering plum or cherry tree

Pink buds on the verge of flowering

New bud

And flowering plant

Hello Darkness

December 28, 2010

Blue light cast by window in the St. Ignatius Chapel, Seattle U

This week workers are changing the light fixtures in my branch library because the old fixtures, while visually interesting, did not cast much light in the cavernous space.  Yesterday they changed out one chandelier, and when we flipped the switch to turn the new one on, the increase in light was tremendous.  I felt an immediate lift to my spirits.

I don’t think I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but one of the challenges of winter is accepting very short days.  I’d like to think that the darkness is a friend, allowing my mind and spirit to incubate seeds for new growth, but in reality I don’t recall ever experiencing a big flowering of my soul in springtime.  Oh, well.  It’s a victory if I just accept, rather than struggle against, this dark time of year.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced out by sadness.”
     — Carl Jung

“Help us to be ever faithful gardeners of the spirit, who know that without darkness nothing cames to birth, and without light, nothing flowers.”
     — May Sarton

Standing Up in the Light

January 18, 2010

Scrabble in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.”
     — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love

A Place in the Sun

December 20, 2009

Jellybean finding a spot on a sunny windowsill

Cats really know how to seek and find sunshine.  I could take a lesson from Jellybean. 

But one of the gifts of winter is the darkness, and I need to remind myself to not only accept, but celebrate, this darker time. 

“. . . for despite the frequent foulness of the weather and the hardship of those who have to work outside, there is something of the Winter that is primal, mysterious and utterly irreplaceable, something both bleak and profoundly beautiful, something essential to this myth of ourselves, to the story of our humanity, as if we somehow need the darkness of the winter months to replenish our inner spirits as much as we need the light, energy and warmth of summer.”
     — Sting, If on a Winter’s Night. . . liner notes